January 7th, 2009
07:56 AM ET
11 years ago

Time kind to former presidents, CNN poll finds

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/01/07/polls.former.presidents/art.presidents.afp.gi.jpg caption="Former Presidents George H.W. Bush, left, and Jimmy Carter can smile now about their performance in polls."] (CNN) - A new national poll appears to validate the adage that time heals all wounds, at least when it comes to two former presidents of the United States.

Sixty percent of Americans questioned in a CNN-Opinion Research Corp. survey released Wednesday morning say they approve of how George H.W. Bush handled his job as president, and 64 percent give a thumbs up to former President Carter.

Watch what time does to presidents in office

Those numbers are about double the approval ratings each had when he was voted out of office after one term.

"Time has been kind to the former presidents," said Keating Holland, CNN's polling director. "Carter's approval rating was just 31 percent on the eve of the 1980 election, and was at 34 percent in late December of that year, the last measure taken during his presidency. But now 64 percent approve of how Carter handled his job as president."

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Filed under: CNN poll
soundoff (127 Responses)
  1. republicans hate america

    thats because we are stupid and have no memory

    January 7, 2009 08:00 am at 8:00 am |
  2. ga.

    i'm glad that time has been kind to these former presidents, they played the hand that they were dealth, they like all humans made some bad choices, but at the time surely they thought it was the right thing to do, they are good men, bless them always.

    January 7, 2009 08:04 am at 8:04 am |
  3. NY republican

    I still remember bound and blindfolded hostages (Carter) and botched rescue operations. I still remember the Iraqi Republican Guard being allowed to retreat and Saddam Hussein left in power (Bush, HW type). Also, "read my lips, no new taxes!" and the several tax increases that followed.
    Both men have gone on to do great things but not during their respective Presidencies.

    January 7, 2009 08:07 am at 8:07 am |
  4. dan

    "W"'s approval rating will climb to 100%, when Americans one day look back on how well he protected the country through 2 terms in office, after 9-11.

    January 7, 2009 08:07 am at 8:07 am |
  5. Pat

    PLEASE.. the damage that Bush and co. have done not only to Iraq and
    Afghanistan, but the entire economy of the US by borrowing BILLIONS to
    pay for illegal wars will NEVER be forgotten. He is lesson in point of never voting for a half wit.
    I know you all at CNN have been pampering him like a baby instead you all should have been digging into every move he made much the same as you're doing to Obama now.
    You're country is in the toilet. It will take at least two whole generations to straighten out the mess Bush and Co. have done so NO history will NEVER LOOK KINDLY ON BUSH ET AL.

    January 7, 2009 08:08 am at 8:08 am |
  6. Michael

    64% give a thumbs up to Carter? That'll give Republicans some spasms. I can understand H.W.'s decent numbers. He merely muffed a minor recession and didn't pay attention to people's anxieties over health care. The economy and Iran were policies that should place Carter in the bottom ten of past presidents. Similarly, Dubya's rating should be in or near the bottom five, due to the implosion of the economy and his reckless foreign policy, which includes the failed Bush Doctrine of pre-emptive war.

    January 7, 2009 08:09 am at 8:09 am |
  7. Paul from Phoenix

    Please. Any poll that finds 64% in favor of the Carter Presidency is a joke.

    January 7, 2009 08:11 am at 8:11 am |
  8. Me

    Oh, sure, there is a reason for it – many people either don't remember or were too young to remember those horrendous days. This applies to both these oldies.

    January 7, 2009 08:13 am at 8:13 am |
  9. clifford

    I wonder what percentage of those surveyed weren't alive when Carter was president??

    January 7, 2009 08:13 am at 8:13 am |
  10. AJ

    Were these people alive when Carter was President? He's a wonderful human being but was an ineffectual micromanaging putz as a President. I guess when you compare him with G.W. Bush he seems pretty good. Let’s hope that GW is not the yardstick against which all future presidents are measured.

    January 7, 2009 08:14 am at 8:14 am |
  11. MEl

    Jimmy Carter was way ahead of his time on energy policy but his primary failure was in his relations with Congress and his communication with the voters. He told the truth about oil and our use of it but it wasn't good news so we fired him and hired an actor.

    January 7, 2009 08:19 am at 8:19 am |
  12. TCM

    Carter's a respectable man, just not one we needed to have as a president. Maybe an advisor on human right issues...but, to have him in charge...well, we're fixing to see it all over again.

    January 7, 2009 08:20 am at 8:20 am |
  13. LL

    After experiencing the worst president of all times....even the average to below average look good.

    What Bush has done to the country is a crime. He has lowered the standard that so many worked to elevate.

    January 7, 2009 08:20 am at 8:20 am |
  14. Denise

    Apparently, those who have been kind to Carter do not remember the high interest rates for home loans, the employment rate, gasoline lines, and the high cost of heating one's home. I remember his standing before a crowd and stating that he had to wear long underwear around the White House because of the heating bill. Then, let's not forget the hostage crisis, the failed rescue attempt, and his gutting of the military. How can anyone look at that and give him kudos? How can anyone look at the Carter years and proclaim that we are in the worst shape since the Great Depression? We aren't worse off–just more spoiled. And, apparently, we believe everything the press feeds us.

    January 7, 2009 08:26 am at 8:26 am |
  15. Historian

    Jimmy is a great man and did a great job as president cleaning up after the Nixon/Ford fiascoes! Too bad, RayGuns/GHWB ruined his work.

    January 7, 2009 08:26 am at 8:26 am |
  16. chuck


    January 7, 2009 08:30 am at 8:30 am |
  17. Carole

    I believe people do start looking back on the good. I still look at Bush, Senior and when he was even in office aside from the Desert Storm, he was not all bad except for 'Read my lips.........NO new taxes.'. I did not hold the new tax statement against him back then even, because I knew that was virtually impossible.

    However, Presidents Carter and Bush did not send our soldiers to get killed and mamed on a LIE. Presidents Carter and Bush did not have Gitmo and the world stage hating America.

    I feel Dubya will be hated by most even down through my grandchildren. I don't want my grandchildren to forget history and when you let someone steal an election, this is what happens. Like the Holocaust, NEVER AGAIN!

    How about the Blair House? This administration is by far either the most arrogant, or just plain stupid.


    January 7, 2009 08:31 am at 8:31 am |
  18. Doug

    While their presidencies may not have produced the best results for their respective time periods, Bush 1 and Carter behaved with some integrity and propriety. The politics of old was much better in terms of basically human behavior (disregarding the occasional lawlessness). At the end of the day, the politicians treated each other with respect and occasionally with friendship (ie: O'Neill and Reagan).

    These days, you have a relative lack of mere politeness. Harry Reid kicking Bush while he's down (deservedly down, I might add). Nancy Pelosi and her "my way or the highway" attitude. I find it all unseemly.

    January 7, 2009 08:32 am at 8:32 am |
  19. GWB2012

    Carter was and STILL IS a LOSER! Another DUMBOCRAT who disgraced the United States. What a creep and an anti-semitic bum!

    January 7, 2009 08:35 am at 8:35 am |
  20. hello

    CNN, did not american died in Mumbai terror attack?
    why there is no news that pakistan finaly admit that lone survivor
    Kasab is a pakistani national, and that makes all other terrorist also pakistani.
    Pakistan is terrorist state and sucking 10 billion from USA aid on the name of helping to fight terror.

    January 7, 2009 08:42 am at 8:42 am |
  21. Rick Sutter

    Pay @ 8:09am says "PLEASE.. the damage that Bush and co. have done not only to Iraq and

    Because they were doing well before, right?

    January 7, 2009 08:42 am at 8:42 am |
  22. Virginia

    My recollection of Carter was that he couldn't fight his way out of a wet paper bag. The only part of his legacy that I remember vividly as president was the horrible fiasco at an attempt to rescue the hostages from Iran. But otherwise, he has redeemed himself as a fine Christian leader and humanitarian, despite his criticism of the republicans (which is status quo for most dems) and his recently obvious left leanings. History is usually kind to most former Presidents regardless of political party affiliation because we just keep our heads in the sand, only to bring them out every 4 years to elect another politician without regards to what they can or cannot do.

    January 7, 2009 08:44 am at 8:44 am |
  23. GWB2012

    It's fun sitting back now and watching all the in fighting among the dems right now. It's like the Beverly Hillbillies moved to Washington. haaaa

    January 7, 2009 08:47 am at 8:47 am |
  24. Keith in CA

    I believe President Carter benefits from the work he has done after his presidency and President George H. W. Bush rates so high because his presidency is compared to his son's. Sadly, history will eventually cut George W. Bush a break.

    January 7, 2009 08:47 am at 8:47 am |
  25. Ron Ft. Myers


    You must be from another planet to even suggest that Bush was pampered by CNN as opposed to Obama. I'll bet you even blame Bush for your lack of intelligence. If he's a half wit, what are you? Bush is over and done with, let's move on and try to be positive.

    January 7, 2009 08:51 am at 8:51 am |
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